PJAS 15 Autumn-9

Jovana Vujanov
The Emptiness of Hardcore: Consuming Violence in Hotline: Miami
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 15 (Autumn 2021), pp. 303-311

Abstract: The article explores the challenges to (media) consumerism posed in the indie action game Hotline: Miami (Dennaton Games, 2012). Hotline deconstructs not only indulgence associated with violent gaming but also its main nostalgic interest–the cultural era of the 1980s–through a ludification of excess. I will aim to demonstrate this through an analysis of the game’s “procedural rhetoric” (Bogost) and narrative structure. Overwhelming the player’s senses with intense audiovisuals, and explicitly confronting her motivations for participating in extreme violence, the game balances the game experience between a trance-like state of indulgent overexposure and metaleptic commentary. The sensory overload is also sharply contrasted with the level of precision necessary to complete the levels, bending the adrenaline-pumping core of the gameplay towards mechanics more common in stealth-based games. The system of in-game rewards and the overall narrative structure further complicate the purposefulness of player acts, questioning the teleology of gore in gaming and subverting the conventional notion of video game violence as entertainment. As I will argue, the metaludic commentary destabilizes the game through irony, relativizing the player’s commitment to it. In so doing, it makes Hotline: Miami a prime example of “dissonant development” (Dyer-Witheford and De Peuter), a game that manages to both sweep the market and challenge its basic premises as an entertainment medium.

Keywords: Hotline: Miami, violence, consumption, procedural rhetoric, game narration

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.15/2/2021.09

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